Monday, August 15, 2011

Jacob and All His Descendants Travel to Egypt - Genesis 46:5-7

Then Jacob arose from Beersheba; and the sons of Israel carried their father Jacob and their little ones and their wives in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him.  They took their livestock and their property, which they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and came to Egypt, Jacob and all his descendants with him: his sons and his grandsons with him, his daughters and his granddaughters, and all his descendants he brought with him to Egypt.

He said he would go, God reassured him on the way, and once again Jacob gets up and leaves Beersheba this time to head for Egypt.  No longer able to walk or travel easily, we are told his sons carried him in the wagons that Joseph had sent for them to ride back to Egypt in.  What a trip that must have been for Jacob.  His desire to both see Joseph and also to obey God  gave him the strength to make it.  With the right motivation, the human body can both suffer and accomplish much.  And throughout the journey to Egypt, perhaps the grand patriarch enjoyed his daughter-in-laws and his grandchildren who were with him in one of the wagons.  Or maybe they took turns visiting in his private wagon as different younger ones would want to “ride with grandpa”.

The Bible says they took their livestock as well as other possessions to Egypt.  You will remember back in Genesis 45:20, Pharaoh himself had told them, “And do not concern yourselves with your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.”  Some believe that there was a deep desire by Jacob not to be a burden on his new hosts, both Joseph and Pharaoh, and I can certainly understand that.  It’s funny though how, even when we are promised that we’ll have everything we need to live where we are going, we still want to bring along everything we’ve accumulated if possible.  And we do that even though we know they may slow our journey down, or make it difficult for us to accommodate in our new environment.  It is possible that sometimes we may even be hindering God’s best for us by doing so.  Many of us also never want to be perceived as being dependent on others at all.  Such an attitude must be examined in light of whether it is a matter of ease for us to provide for ourselves or a matter of pride that we do so.  I am also reminded that there is nothing we brought on our journey to this world and nothing we will take with us when we leave it.

For some reason, the text goes to great length to record that Jacob’s entire family went with him to Egypt and that no one was left behind.  There is no doubt that Jacob was still seen as their ‘tribal chief’, their common leader or head of the family, and someone for whom they had great respect as an elder and father.  In addition, since they had all likely lived together in what today might be considered a compound, the probability of moving as a single unit was increased, unlike our living apart from relatives today where when one relocates, another does not normally follow.  Add to this that the whole family had heard of the wealth of Egypt, and couple that with the fact that life in Canaan was not yet experienced as the blessing that the promised land was supposed to provide, the willingness to head out was easily forthcoming.  At the same time this collective journey may have also indicated Jacob’s great faith in that he knew, because of God’s promise and reassurances, that they would all return some day and thus no one had to be left behind.

What can we learn from this passage?  For starters, we need to be ready (no matter what our age is) to “move” for God.  I am almost 64 years old and fairly comfortable in my life’s routine but at the back of my mind is this constant awareness that God can change it all any time He wishes to and if I am a true believer, I will obey and accept it.  While many of us may reach the point where we are ready for death, we have to also be ready for what is in store for us between now and then.

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